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12 Questions with glam-squad staple and decorator, Lauren Paez Burt
Lauren Paez Burt likes a project. The East LA native was a fixture at the infamous aughts Los Angeles institution, American Apparel. Things got messy. Then, she found sobriety. That led to a career in hair and makeup, converting her newfound health and internal shine into steady work for “natural girl” Los Angeles brands like LOQ, Shaina Mote, and Garrett Leight. Most recently, with her husband Xavier, she’s applied her vintage-first aesthetic to transform a boarded up, trash-filled house in Flamingo Heights into Lolo’s Casita, a desert destination. See a thread there? We talked with Burt about hailing from a family of “bad drinkers,” the myth of alcohol-as-truth-serum (“it’s not”), the Olsen Twins (her best dressed), and sobriety as the ultimate skincare hack.
What does your sobriety mean to you?
It means everything to me. You know those cute little white and fluffy guys that you pour water onto and they turn into Gremlins? That’s me with alcohol. It turns me into a monster. I’m in a trance. I turn into a totally different person. I can’t function. It feels like it gets a chokehold on my neck. I go somewhere else. It’s really dark. I feel like such a better person without it. Happy. I’m so glad I don’t drink. I’m so thankful. It’s freedom without it.
What was the driving force that led you to sobriety?
Consistent blackouts. I could have one glass of wine and be fine. I could have five glasses of wine and be fine. And then the next day, I could have two glasses of wine and be totally blacked out. Waking up in the morning saying, “What did I do? What did I say?” That is the worst. I still have nightmares about that.
What’s it been like navigating the industry sober?
It’s easy. I don’t think I could do it if I wasn’t sober.
Has sobriety changed your personal style?
It’s all inside. I feel a lot cleaner, internally. This sounds vain, but people will say, “Your skin looks so great. You’re 41. How do you do it? What do you use?” I don’t drink. That’s it. But I’m kind of basic. 90s jeans and white t-shirts. Those are the best.
Any looks from the “before times” you’d like not to be reminded of?
American Apparel. Maybe topless at parties [laughing] but that was a long time ago.
What’s the one product in your kit that you personally can’t live without?
My RMS Living Luminizer highlighter.
Where do you seek out inspiration?
Thrifting. Growing up we didn’t have a ton of money so I thrifted a lot. Everything. And I’ve applied that to my whole life.
How has living in the desert influenced your creativity?
There’s a lot of space and time. There are a lot of new things going through my head. New opportunities. There’s not a lot of influence, not a lot of things flashing in my face, saying, “It should be like this.” No billboards. Not a lot of stuff coming at me. The way we did the house, the way we do other things, the way we dress, even, it comes from us more than being told by the city, if that makes sense.
What’s something you’ve done sober that you never thought you could do sober?
Simple things like going to weddings, talking to people, hanging out, going to dinners. I could be so painfully shy at times. Those things were always really hard for me.
Given alcohol's well documented effects on productivity, why do you think there continues to be so much stigma re: not drinking in creative industries?
I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Oh, you don’t drink? I’m an artist so I have to be able to go somewhere else. It helps me with my flow. If I don’t drink or I don’t do drugs then I can’t be creative.” I don’t believe that at all. For me it’s the opposite. I got really wasted in Mexico City once. I was drawing on a napkin. And I showed it to this woman and told her, “I’m an artist.” The next morning I woke up and looked at that napkin and it was literally a stick figure. She probably thought I was fully psycho. So embarrassing. So crazy.
What’s the secret to a happy sober marriage?
We still have our shit [laughing] but the madness is just not happening. I’m not blacking out and doing weird shit in front of Xavier and embarrassing him. We go to therapy. We have to work on our communication because we’re both very strong headed. Sobriety has helped a huge amount. But we’re also super raw now. It can be harder, sober. We’re both here. We’re both present. We can’t hide. It’s cool, though.
What gives you strength?
Changing my mind. Changing my thoughts.
Text by Andrew Smart / Photos by Coral Lee
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